Eisenberg: Ravens Never 'Win' The Offseason


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Some other team is always making a bolder move or bigger splash, signing the big-fish free agent, drafting the next Brady, obtaining the "one missing piece."

At this time of the year, the Ravens pretty much hum along under the radar, drafting for talent rather than need and juggling their salary cap so they can retain their guys and sign free agents who don't break the bank.

If you win during the season as routinely as they do, you don't have to win the offseason.

With the combine rolling into view, free agency looming and mock drafts popping up online, the offseason is officially in gear. No one knows what turns lie ahead, but here are a couple of things guaranteed to happen:

Teams other than the Ravens are going to sign the big-money, top-of-the-line free agents, generating huge buzz and causing a reshuffling of Super Bowl odds in Las Vegas.

Teams other than the Ravens are going to pluck the shiniest diamonds from this draft class, the players who allegedly can't miss.

Someone else is going to win the offseason while the Ravens hum along, methodically putting their 2012 team together.

The Philadelphia Eagles won the most recent offseason, the one truncated by labor strife. They signed a handful of free agents, including cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, the biggest name on the market – an acquisition many Ravens fans envied. They called themselves the "Dream Team" while their front office took bows for fitting everyone under the cap.

When the season began, the Eagles won four of their first 12 games. Their big win in the offseason was exposed as fraudulent.

That's usually what happens.

The Washington Redskins are famous for winning the offseason, investing huge dollars in big-name free agents such as Albert Haynesworth. But they've only had two winning seasons since 2000.

What the Ravens do in the offseason isn't so exciting. They score in the draft's nooks and crannies, the end of the first round, the second and third (and even later) rounds. They manage the cap, refraining from piling debt onto their credit card.

They turn their lineup over in the places where they can get younger, plugging in young guys they've drafted and developed, with the occasional well-placed, mid-market free agent such as Vonta Leach or Bernard Pollard mixed in.

They do indulge in the occasional splashy move. They actually traded for Terrell Owens once upon a time. They traded for Steve McNair, envisioning a Super Bowl run that almost happened.

But mostly, they just hum along, rebuilding as they go.

Where the Eagles had Asomugha in 2011, the Ravens had Lardarius Webb, their 2009 third-round draft pick, young and hungry and completely unknown outside of Baltimore. He couldn't match Asomugha's hype, but he was just as good on the field this season, if not better.

Who would you rather have now?

You don't win the offseason with guys like Webb. You just win when it matters.

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